Dozens of Spring ISD educators and community members gathered outside of Link Elementary School on May 12 to celebrate the life and legacy of late principal Justin Jones during a live oak tree dedication ceremony.
The tree sapling is the second of its kind to be donated to Spring ISD through Harris County Precinct 4’s Legacy Trees Project and Commissioner R. Jack Cagle.
The ceremony included remarks by Link’s current principal, Tangy Stith; Board Member Winford Adams Jr.; and Superintendent Dr. Rodney E. Watson. Mr. Jones was remembered by stories of his time at Link, the impact he had on his school, and the memories he left with colleagues.
Watson conveyed the significance of the live oak tree dedication by relating the tree to Principal Jones’ character. “As this tree grows, its branches will provide shade and shelter, as well as beauty to our surroundings,” the superintendent said. “It’s a fitting legacy for a person who was always thinking about others and motivating them to achieve and excel.”
Laura Medick, an arborist with Harris County Precinct 4, educated the ceremony’s audience on the live oak tree’s resilience and biological and cultural significance. She also compared the tree’s characteristics to Jones, who passed away in an automobile accident in May 2020.
“It is our honor to dedicate this tree to the loving memory of Principal Justin Jones,” said Medick. “It is our hope that this tree becomes a symbol of the legacy that Principal Jones left at Link Elementary.”
Members of the Spring ISD community also shared their thoughts on Jones’ legacy and impact on the district.
Adams recalled a memory of Jones’ enthusiasm at a board meeting where Link was recognized for a huge increase in its accountability score. “I knew then that he was a really dynamic principal and did a lot to change the culture at Link,” said Adams.
Ponderosa Elementary School Principal Shanna Swearingen described her late friend as down-to-earth, driven, and student-focused. “Justin was constantly thinking outside the box and always willing to share advice or help whenever you needed it,” said Swearingen.
“Many people may remember Mr. Jones as ‘leader’ or ‘colleague,’ but I remember him as the person who sat with me before my mother’s open heart surgery at the hospital,” said Stith, who served as assistant principal at the school during Jones’ time there. “He was an amazing spirit and a special person.”
Stith had encouraged her faculty and staff to pay homage to Jones by wearing their Link shirts, brightly colored pants, and fun socks to the tree dedication ceremony.
“This is our tribute to him to show that we loved him and that he is definitely missed,” said Stith. “We’re doing our very best to live up to his legacy, but he left some very big shoes to fill.”